The Democrat is a lightning paced global thriller celebrating Thomas Muir's extraordinary efforts to establish democracy in Scotland, his worldwide adventures following on from his illegal arrest and his conviction to free his homeland...
When the radical lawyer, Thomas Muir, discovers that his innocent clients are being convicted as state policy, he strives to give them a voice in the political arena. But revealing the establishment to be corrupt and immoral, leaves his own freedoms under attack and with his soul mate - an exiled client - he's forced into a perilous ocean odyssey pursued by the British government, its navy and its allies. The Democrat is a lightning paced global thriller voyaging from Edinburgh to the ends of the earth, from Bordeaux to Botany Bay, Vancouver to Vera Cruz, Cuba to Cadiz. It's the true story of one person's devotion to democracy that inspires Robert Burns, Napoleon and the first President of the United States. Written and researched during Arab struggles for freedom and Scottish decisions concerning independence, this is an historical novel for our time.
I hope you enjoy the book, if you click on the blue 'video' tab above, you can watch a short film about Thomas Muir's experiences in Edinburgh, alternatively, you can read the following excerpt below or visit www.thedemocratbook.com to discover even more via the 'Visit Website' button at the top of the page.
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Beyond the open air theatre, Muir noticed the latest element in his own revenge drama. HMS Providence had left its anchorage and was sailing out of the bay. Like eels the British Navy could cross entire oceans to get what they wanted and for Captain Broughton this was more of a priority than Shakespeare. In the short term it was a benefit rather than a hindrance, for it would be difficult enough navigating past the frigates patrolling the bay.
The re-enactment of Caesar’s collapse reminded him of Gerrald. His friend was loyal and wouldn’t miss an engagement, particularly given that he had his lifeworks to collect. Something wasn’t quite right and he wondered whether his fall into the shallows weeks earlier had seriously affected his condition.
The actors made use of the deteriorating weather conditions, tallying them with Cassius telling Cicero that the storm was a good sign of the evil he and his collaborators planned to carry out on Caesar. To Muir each raindrop washed away his goodly plans but perhaps the storm arriving into Botany Bay had to be endured now to be avoided later.
He looked around the theatre wondering who would be his Cassius. Who would scupper his best laid plans? Was the man to his left a future adversary as Godwin and Cook, sat on his right, had been to Francois in days gone by? Were he to die, would Palmer and Skirving incite the commoners to riot in protest of his death like Antony had for Caesar? His lands like Caesar's after all, on Palmer’s instructions, would be left to the people.
With the tragedy of revenge engrained in his mind he left before the end. Speeches from the penultimate act rallied around his mind as he ran to Palmer's farm. He didn’t much like Brutus for what he’d done and how he reminded him of both Watt and the Lord Advocate, but one thing Brutus said, he did agree with. There is a tide in the affairs of men that when taken at the flood, leads on to fortune and if omitted leads all the voyages of one's life bound for shallows and miseries.
He felt more than ever that on such a full sea as that evening, he must afloat and take the current when it served or else lose his venture. There would not be another ship like The Otter. That, he knew. He knocked persistently at Palmer’s but eventually gave up waiting and moved onto Gerrald’s at Farm Cove. The front door was wide open. Palmer was nursing him at his bedside. Palsied, the consumption had worsened. He looked on the verge of death.
Palmer’s bible was arched over Gerrald’s chest, making the pages wet with sweat. Deep down, Muir wanted Gerrald to join him but knew that he was not strong enough for a night on land never mind a night at sea. Instead, he dedicated the occasion to saying his goodbyes. They held each other until Muir remembered the prints of Convention and The Voice of the People in his satchel. Trying to focus through the tears welling up in his eyes he read: Convention. The only means of saving us from ruin. In a letter addressed to the people of England. By Joseph Gerrald.
Between sentencing and transportation writing the book had kept Gerrald sane. Hopefully, knowing, on his deathbed, that his works were both in print would give additional meaning to his struggling last days. Muir knew that soon it would be all that remained of this dutiful human being. In dedication he swept through Convention murmuring sentences that were particularly poignant. The pamphlet opened with the assertion that war declared by government must be supported by the people, for, it is the blood of the peasants that flows in battle, not the King’s. It concluded with the declaration that war was only a frightful enumeration of massacres, assassinations, proscriptions, devastations and nothing more than an improvement in the mystery of murder.
Printing those parts were the most satisfying. Watching the work’s author slowly dying in front of him, Muir wondered, in future generations, how many lives would be saved through the enactment of his principles. Searching for a handkerchief in his jacket pocket, he found Godwin’s book that Gerrald had leant him for the voyage.
‘Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new. That’s what I told Godwin his book made me feel. And how did it affect you?’ asked Gerrald.
‘It got me through the ordeal on the convict ship.’
‘That’s what literature should do, get you to the end. Do you know, Godwin wrote the last of Caleb’s adventure first?’
‘If we could only know the ends of our adventures on their outset...’
Gerrald unfolded the last page that he’d concealed the day he’d persuaded Muir to print The Voice of the People. It read:
‘A faithful narrative of the last illness, death and internment of the right honourable William Pitt.’
Muir ignored the sad irony but Gerrald didn’t.
‘And this is the faithful narrative of the last illness, death and internment of the right honourable Joseph Gerrald.’
His friend dying beside him was, to Muir, a man unafraid of putting his name beside his ideas and it was to him that he would now risk his own life.
In the morning both might no longer be alive.
Palmer led Muir to the door.
‘Take this with you.’
Muir hung the Reverend’s vestment over his arm.
‘Is it to bless my escape?’
Palmer looked to the ground.
‘I’m no longer a man of cloth. Besides, it’s impracticable when boat building.’
‘So why should I wear it?’
‘To hide you in the night whilst you leave the bay.’
‘Bless you, Palmer.’
‘I still think you shouldn’t go out in this storm.’
‘It is through the worst of it, I hope. Pray for a sea change, Reverend.’
‘Time on the convict ship made my prayers redundant.’
‘You'll write to Gerrald’s wife? What is this book in the pocket?’
‘Something to read aboard The Otter. But not before. Go dear friend and find your freedom. One day I’ll follow in your wake.’
Racing back home to find Jane asleep, Muir tried to explain the plan but she remained drowsy and defeated. An emptied spirit bottle still claimed her grasp. Packing up a handful of her clothes, he heard banging from outside. Ignoring it for now he carried her, still wrapped in linen, out of the house. It was then that he realised the source of the banging. The doors to the fish store were rattling and it wasn’t the winds. He looked across to where the boat was beached and decided to make a run for it. But halfway across, a deep thud led to the splitting of wood panels. Laden with Jane over his shoulder, they made slow progress down the second half of the field, all the time wondering when Kidlaw would be upon them.
Knee deep Muir stepped inside. Turning backwards to begin rowing he heard the door-bolt scrape across. Catching the stones on the bottom, he paddled hard. For, against the moonlit sky Kidlaw could be seen running straight towards them.
As the convict waded into the water Muir could see he was brandishing a gutting knife in one hand and an axe in the other. Closer still his face and forearms appeared lacerated with lobster bites. He was within an oar’s length when suddenly the seabed fell away beneath him. Trying to swim with an axe and a knife proved impossible. Every stride Kidlaw took into the depths, Muir dug an oars’ stroke through the water. The convict seemed to consider dumping the weapons. If he needed to Muir would strike him with the oar again. This time it would be fatal for he would drown. Halfway across though, their assailant returned to Hunters’ Hill deterred, Muir thought, by fears of the shark.
Landing on Cockle Beach for the last time, Muir touched the ground, marked his face with its sands and bid farewell to his other landlocked accomplice. The winds seemed to be easing but that could have just been the shelter from the headland. The river bridge, inland, was just visible. He looked again at the house he had built and began to walk the boat along the estuary shoreline until in sight of Kirribili Point, from where he would row out into the ocean. As he hugged the east facing shoreline the waters between the two headlands opened up. When the shoreline they were on turned to face north, he set the compass and prepared to head due east. Apart from the two patrol ships, their route to the ocean was unhindered. But what if he met HMS Providence whilst waiting for The Otter? What then? As this seed of doubt gained light from the uncovering moon, the dark foresail at the bow ruffled a little. A moment later, Jane poked her head out. Muir put his finger to his lips. She remained silent but behind him on the headland noticed a silhouette. Had Kidlaw made such progress, Muir wondered, pursuing them all this way. He prepared to row into the depths again where he knew they would be safe. But suddenly another silhouette appeared. The figures then removed their hats and waved briefly. Fear turned to hope. A tense jaw turned towards a smile. Though not wanting to show the whites of his teeth, Muir could discern from their different heights that it was First Mate, Francois Pierre Peron and Captain Ebenezer Dorr. They disappeared as soon as they had emerged not wanting to draw attention to the voyagers. Alone again, Muir waded into the ocean looking for reassurance from Jane until, a moment later, Francois jumped through the surf to embrace his friend. Muir felt a tear roll down his face as he bid farewell, but it was not his own, for his eyes were dry. Stepping into the boat, he wondered whether he would ever again stand on the earth.
‘I hope you will find us on the vast ocean out of sight of land. But if you should not, then we shall have perished of a death much sweeter than the life we led here.’
Exhausted from several miles of rowing, they were now at the mouth of the bay near Bradley’s Head. Muir had tried to not be too hasty, allowing time for the remaining patrol boat to tack upwind to the north shore, where he hoped, they’d conduct their patrols. The ship’s moonlit sails, mere slivers as seen from the trailing edge to the mast, collapsed as they tacked and filled again, curiously obeying his wishes. Presenting their entire sail canvasses as they cut across the bay, they appeared like eyes without pupils, fogged over, blind to that which they searched. But Muir’s attention was stolen by something else. Suddenly the ocean seemed to be falling away. The boat then crashed into the trough below. Beyond the bay, the surging ascents and descents of the swell made them seem nothing more than driftwood. He’d sensed nothing like this in the estuary and feared their escape too ambitious. Against their intuitions, they set their course due east into the unknown. As he looked back at the penal colony, now just the flickering of oil lamps and open fires, he inhaled deep breaths of satisfaction, at being free from man’s mastery over his fellow man, at being free from the crude mechanics of government. But flung into what? He did not know.